Being aware of your surroundings is the first step to taking responsibility for your personal safety. Learning how to scan your perimeter and anticipate what others may do is part of being a safe and educated person. AG & AG continuously reminds women to keep your head on a swivel and keep up your guard — and situational awareness extends to your digital presence as well.
Here are 8 Smartphone Safety Tips to follow:
- Review your cell phone settings to ensure that you have personal information hidden from strangers. Start with your name that is listed for Hotspot, Bluetooth, or AirDrop. You don’t want connecting phones to look for a WiFi network and see “Pam Cantu’s iPhone” available. One quick Internet search and a stranger could use your photo to find your social accounts and everything about you. Change your device name to something anonymous (and potentially fun, like “NSA Wiretap”).
- Be mindful of the sensitive information that you store on your smartphone, such as your passwords for your banking apps, your “home” address listed in GPS apps, or your contacts (especially ones listed as “Mom” or “Hunky Hubby” that provide more personal information).
- Always ensure that your phone software is updated to provide you the latest security patches and protection. If your smartphone gives you a popup that an update is available, don’t ignore it forever.
- For your safety use a screen lock that requires a password or fingerprint to operate your phone and, if you use Siri or a voice command feature, disable it when your screen is locked. Your apps or photos in the wrong hands could be devastating.
- Practice safe web browsing by being cautious about sites that you visit. Just like your computer, your smartphone can encounter malware.
- Avoid using public USB outlets to charge your phone. Instead carry a charging block and plug into an actual power source to recharge.
- Double check your settings to disable any geolocating or geotagging that may be saved in your photos or social apps. Your location, even as specific as your neighborhood or venue name, can be saved in a picture’s metadata, so make sure that feature is turned off.
- Review your social media to ensure that your privacy settings are the way you want them. Make sure your cell phone number and location are not published. Perhaps avoid publicly posting photos of your family that reveal places, such as schools or extracurricular activities, where your children frequent, and set those posts to only appear to friends or a designated circle rather than the general public. Also check your settings for what photos and posts others are allowed to tag you in.
With regards to personal safety, there are some great ways to use your phone. The obvious feature is the ability to call for emergency help; however, you may be surprised that most 9-1-1 systems aren’t equipped to handle data calls. In other words, you can video chat with your BFF and geolocate your Uber driver, but first responders don’t have the technology to find you or see you. Many municipalities and states are investing in data systems, but it is still several years away for most areas.
Some smartphone apps provide a service similar to alarm monitoring that acts as an interface for the caller and law enforcement. These apps can allow video conferencing and geolocating that can be recorded while the service communicates with a dispatcher. Some 9-1-1 systems do accept text messages, so check with your local officials to see if it is available in your area.
You can also check your phone for additional emergency communication features. For example, iPhone has settings for your Medical ID and local emergency service so that you can access them quickly. To send an emergency SOS signal:
- iPhone 8, 8+, or X: hold the lock button and one of the volume buttons at the same time;
- iPhone 7 or earlier: push the lock button on the right side 5x quickly).
Your smartphone is a great way to stay connected, but can be dangerous if you’re not aware. Not only can it be a huge distraction that keeps you from monitoring the world around you, it can cause you to unknowingly publicize information about yourself, your family, your finances, your location, and other private information. Use your smartphone to your advantage and ensure that you’re in control of your surroundings, both physically and digitally.